Series 47


by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Deuteronomy 20:1-10

Deuteronomy chapter 20 records the laws that God gave His people relating to warfare; the first ten verses form the basis of this study, and the particular emphasis is that some who would fight in the Lord’s battles are unfit for battle (1 Chronicles 12:1-15, particularly verse 8). But notice first the following facts:-

  1. 1. The Christian life is a warfare. In the New Testament it is spoken of as a race (Hebrews 12:1); a pilgrimage (1 Peter 2:11); but also as “the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). We must remember that the Christian life is not just a picnic: it is a very serious business.
  2. 2. The Christian life is a warfare against a formidable enemy. In every warfare there are two sides; you cannot fight unless there is an enemy to fight – look at Deuteronomy 20:1 – “horses and chariots and an army greater than yours…” In actual fact, our enemies are not people, not “flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12). Our enemies are marshalled in three great companies. They are described as the world (John 17:14); the flesh, or sinful nature (Galatians 5:17); and the Devil (1 Peter 5:8). Never underestimate the power of these enemies!
  3. 3. As Christians we have a great Captain, and under Him victory is assured. Deuteronomy 20:3 leaves us in no doubt about this. We are no match for our enemies. They cause us to faint, fear, tremble and panic (verse 3), but as verse 4 assures us, God goes with us to fight for victory (Romans 8:37).
  4. 4. The success of any warfare depends on the soldiers as well as the Captain. The Lord wins His victory through the willing co-operation of His soldiers. God’s purposes today for the frustration of evil are safe in His hands, but He must have soldiers who are true to Him, who will work with Him. He works out His great purpose in the world through His Church.
  5. 5. Many soldiers in God’s army are unfit for battle. This is the teaching of verses 1-10. Verses 4-8 picture four kinds of Christians who are unqualified, or disqualified, for spiritual warfare because they are not fit to fight. Notice in verses 5-8 the expression which is repeated – “Let him go home”. How solemn this is! Here are people who are engaged in a warfare against a formidable enemy, fighting under a great captain who is depending on them to move forward in the battle-lines – but they are not fit to do so. So what are the qualifications, or disqualifications, for fighting?


1. Those who are not wholly dedicated to the Lord are unfit for battle

This truth is brought out in Deuteronomy 20:5. It would appear that it was the custom then for God’s people to dedicate a new house to the Lord, just as many Christians do today. However, it is the spiritual application of all this that is important. We are all houses or ‘temples’ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), and where there is incomplete dedication of ourselves to the Lord we are not fit for battle – Romans 6:13; Romans 12:1-2. Are all our members, all the rooms of our house (our heart, will, mind, ears, eyes, hands, feet, lips) dedicated to Him and to His service? Incomplete dedication disqualifies us for warfare and for fighting in the Lord’s army. Let this truth search your heart.


2. Those who have not tasted the Fruit of the Spirit are unfit for battle

Notice verse 6. There was a law regarding eating the fruit of a vineyard, as Leviticus 19:23-25 shows us; but the spiritual application is that we must be producing and enjoying the fruit of the Spirit in our lives before we are qualified to fight in the Lord’s battles. Turn to Galatians 5:22-23, and ask yourself how many of these nine fruits you have eaten:

  1. 1. LOVE. Is Romans 5:5 really true of me?
  2. 2. JOY. Am I experiencing John 15:11?
  3. 3. PEACE. Do I constantly experience Isaiah 26:3?
  4. 4. PATIENCE. Does Colossians 1:11 describe me?
  5. 5. KINDNESS. Is 1 Thessalonians 5:15 true of me?
  6. 6. GOODNESS. Am I like Barnabas – Acts 11:24?
  7. 7. FAITHFULNESS. Are we living out Proverbs 3:3?
  8. 8. GENTLENESS. Am I like Jesus – 2 Corinthians 10:1?
  9. 9. SELF-CONTROL. What about Titus 2:11-12?


3. Those who have failed to fulfil some obligation are unfit for battle

Look at Deuteronomy 20:7. If a man had promised to marry a woman, he was to marry her before being free to fight – compare Deuteronomy 24:5. What obligations should we fulfil before we are fit for battle?

  1. 1. There are obligations to God. For example, we must fulfil our vows (look at Deuteronomy 23:21); we must put Him first (Matthew 6:33); we must make Him known (Mark 16:15).
  2. 2. There are obligations to others. For example, we must be reconciled to them (Matthew 5:23); we must be scrupulously honest in all our dealings with people (Romans 12:17); we must bear their burdens (Galatians 6:2).


4. Those who are fearful and faint-hearted are unfit for battle

This truth is brought out in Deuteronomy 20:8. Courage is required for fighting. Fear and faint-heartedness not only dishonour God but they discourage and upset the morale of our fellow-believers. Faithfulness in reading, studying and meditating in God’s Word and in prayer will quickly dispel fear and timidity – look up Isaiah 41:10.

Finally, notice the following spiritual principles:

  1. 1. God’s method is frequently one of subtraction and not of addition. Notice the words in verses 5-8 – “let him go…”; and compare Judges 7:2-7.
  2. 2. The Lord puts quality before quantity. How searching this truth is!
  3. 3. There is no conscription in the army of our King. He does not coerce us to become His soldiers; but what a privilege it is to be not only a saint (Ephesians 1:18), but a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-4). Compare Psalm 110:3!